Washington Counties Challenge: A Statewide Bikespedition To-Do List

Bike challenges motivate some people, while others say they just ride their bike to ride their bike. I ride my bike without needing a challenge to inspire me, but at the same time have fun with the sense of accomplishment that goes with checking something off a list (as with coffeeneuring, errandonnee, and 30 Days of Biking).

When I was a teenager trying to organize myself (oh, who am I kidding, I still do this) I’d make a list that included things I had already done so I could have the satisfaction of checking them off. It felt like a running start.

It is in that spirit that I announce my own personal challenge: Ride in every county in Washington. And not just a “wheel around the parking lot at a rest area” ride — a ride that lets me experience what it’s like for people who ride there all the time.

Barb Chamberlain (left) and Betsy Lawrence (right) bicycling on Spokane's South Hill, May 13, 2014.

With Betsy Lawrence, co-founder with me of Belles and Baskets, riding the Spokane Commute of the Century during Bike to Work Week 2014.

I’m kicking it off with this list of all 39 counties that includes notes from memory about the type of riding I’ve done in that county or what makes it memorable for me. My work at WSDOT as Director of the Active Transportation Division should help me get around to some of the ones I haven’t yet visited.

The list also makes a great excuse to reread Cycling Sojourner: A Guide to the Best Multi-Day Bicycle Tours in Washington* and to create some weekend bike-tour getaway itineraries. As I review the list I realize I’ve been in some counties for meetings about bicycling without going bicycling — definitely some opportunities missed along the way thanks to the pressures of a full schedule and the travel time to get to and from a destination.

An invitation: If you have an idea for a really great reason to visit a particular county and check it out on two wheels let me know in the comments or email me at work. That will help me put another county name in boldface to show I’ve ridden there.

  • Adams County
  • Asotin County
  • Benton County 
    • Greatly enjoyed riding the Sacajawea Heritage Trail on both sides of the Columbia River. Like the Apple Capital Loop Trail, this route lets me pick up two counties in one beautiful ride.
    • This is also where I learned the term “goathead”, as in, “Don’t ride over anything green on the trail — it might be a goathead.” Growing up in farm country outside Lewiston, Idaho, we called it puncture weed and learned not to walk barefoot in the driveway.
  • Chelan County
    • Apple Capital Loop Trail is tons of fun and I’ve had the chance to ride a bit of the Rocky Ridge extension.
    • I’ve biked in and around downtown Wenatchee quite a few times — love that they have a bike repair station available 24/7 and The Hunter’s Wife is a fantastic vegan stop along the way.
    • Wenatchee will forever remain most memorable as “the town where Hubs broke his face” after a spectacular crash my bike-racing husband had in the Tour de Bloom. 
    • Leavenworth stands out in my memory for the bike lanes on either side of the state highway that runs through downtown, and as a place with perhaps more bike parking than I’ve ever seen in a small town. All the racks were in use.

  • Clallam County: Several visits to Port Angeles and rides both through town to meetings with local bike advocates and along the Olympic Discovery Trail.
  • Clark County: Several trips to Vancouver — nice bike connections in a revitalized area of downtown, the cool land bridge over the freeway, and trail segments alongside highways and on bridges that facilitate connectivity and commuting. And yes, this is yet another place I enjoy getting to by train with my bike. So easy to ride away from the station, stop somewhere for coffee, see things at a human pace.

  • Columbia County: Both happy and sad memories. Happy because this was the very first place I rode my bike after recovering from my broken elbow — a slow and cautious roll through downtown and along the short stretch of trail by the Touchet River. Sweet Hubs and I stayed at the historic Weinhard Hotel. Sad because we were on our way to my brother’s funeral. I scheduled the journey as a multi-day trip to have time to leave my day-to-day life behind and prepare myself, which wasn’t entirely possible but it was a good decision.
  • Cowlitz County: Rode around Longview a bit, met with local advocates at a coffee shop. One of the things that stuck with me was the contrast between biking on a wide, busy arterial, then turning into a quiet older street with shade trees and a coffee shop with a bike rack out front.
  • Douglas County: Conveniently located on the Apple Capital Loop Trail, making it easy to check off two counties with one loop. I stay with my friend Deb in East Wenatchee whenever I’m in town for work or pleasure (hi Deb!) so I get in some neighborhood riding as well as the more obvious trail time.
  • Ferry County: Haven’t ridden it yet but the Ferry County Rail Trail is on my #BikeIt list.
  • Franklin County: Thanks to the Sacajawea Heritage Trail along the Columbia River, as noted above.
  • Garfield County
  • Grant County
  • Grays Harbor County: We did a weekend getaway to Westport in 2015. While Sweet Hubs volunteered at a bike race in Montesano I biked to Westport on a route that included a nice section of trail through Aberdeen. Sweetie met me there with the car and we spent a quiet weekend on the ocean looking at sea lions (right on the dock!) and enjoying the quiet. On the way back we stopped and tasted cranberry wines; there’s an Ocean Spray bottling plant in the area too.
  • Island County: (I had plans for riding on a weekend getaway to Langley but ended up so sick with the flu I spent the weekend huddled on the sofa in front of a fire in our cozy B&B. Another time.)
  • Jefferson County: Memorable for a trip I made to the kickoff of a program to get kids moving, during which I visited The Recyclery community bike shop and we all held an impromptu parade following a guy on a bike pulling a boombox on his trailer. We rode straight into town and along the Main Street, made a couple of loops in a parking lot, and rode back and forth, with such low car traffic volume that we didn’t block anyone and everyone who saw us laughed and waved. Lots of bike-bell ringing along the way. 
  • King County: I live here now so…. yeah. And it’s where I started my professional life in bike advocacy after years of volunteering. Just a few of the places I’ve ridden:
    • Trails: Duwamish Trail (on almost every ride to downtown Seattle). Burke-Gilman Trail. Elliott Bay Trail (another part of my route to downtown). 2nd Ave. protected bike lane and the recent added PBL on Pike. Melrose Trail above I-5, which sometimes features the added visual of drivers stuck in non-moving traffic congestion as I pedal merrily along. East Lake Sammamish Trail. The I90 trail east across Lake Washington. The Cross-Kirkland Corridor section of the Eastside Rail Corridor (with Cong. Suzan DelBene and a bunch of people celebrating the trail). And of course, the very very awesome longest floating bike/walk path in the world, the SR520 Trail.
    • Towns: Enumclaw. Burien. White Center. Tukwila. Woodinville.
    • Major rides that take me through more towns and trails: Woodinville Wine Ride. Ride for Major Taylor. Emerald City Ride.

 

  • Kitsap County: An easy ferry ride away from Seattle. One memorable trip: A ridefrom the African American Museum in Seattle to catch the ferry and go to the Bainbridge Art Museum (one of Cascade Bicycle Club’s free group rides). Four of us on the ride, wonderful art, and especially enjoyable as one of the earliest rides I did post-broken-elbow-recovery. I also biked there in 2013 on one of my trips to meet with local advocates at Silverdale Cyclery.

  • Klickitat County
  • Lewis County
  • Lincoln County
  • Mason County
  • Okanogan County
  • Pacific County
  • Pend Oreille County: Holds the title of “First place I ever biked 50 miles.” This was on the Great Northwest Fall Tour in 2007, a beautiful ride the Newport Rotary put on. It served as a run-up to Tour des Lacs a few weeks later, a ride that no longer occurs and which still stands as the longest one-day mileage I’ve ridden (94).
  • Pierce County:  One of my favorite things to do when I get the opportunity: take Amtrak Cascades or Sounder to Tacoma with my bike, get off and ride around the waterfront or go to the museums like the Washington State Historical Museum and the Chihuly Glass Museum.

  • San Juan County: Strangely enough I haven’t done the kind of biking that the San Juan Islands are famous for, touring all around. My younger sister lives in Friday Harbor so I’ve biked from the ferry landing to her house and back again any number of times — bikes + ferries make for an awesome, easy, fun way to get to the islands. Someday, island tour, someday…. 
  • Skagit County:
    • Lots of stops in Anacortes — some to catch the ferry, some for events in Anacortes like the ribbon-cutting on the west end of US Bicycle Route 10. Rode the Tommy Thompson Trestle one trip, and on another trip got to ride an old Japanese mamachan bike on a little stretch of the Guemes Channel Trail.

    • Another great train destination: Mount Vernon. I had the chance to do a really fun tour of their growing bike infrastructure in 2016, including a newly opened underpass below I-5 that connected Mount Vernon and Burlington for people walking and biking, the riverwalk they’re constructing along the Skagit River in downtown Mount Vernon, and more.

  • Thurston County: First ride here was the Interagency Bike Ride on Bike to Work Day back when I was still pretty new as executive director at Washington Bikes. I’ve been back for other Bike to Work events and ridden the Chehalis-Western Trail. Now that I work for WSDOT I take my bike with me whenever I go there for work. If I have two days’ worth of meetings I often stay overnight with friends in Tumwater (hi, Stefanie and Corey, maker of custom bikes!) and bike commute to WSDOT HQ. 

  • Wahkiakum County
  • Walla Walla County: My first ride here was the Ann Weatherill Classic, a ride through lovely country that’s sadly no longer put on by the local bike club. Memorable among other things for ending with fabulous strawberry shortcake. 
  • Whatcom County: Love riding in Bellingham, and it’s yet another great train ride from Seattle.
    • In 2017 I was there for a meeting that happened to coincide with Bike to Work Day; local bike educator/advocate Mary Anderson led me on an easy tour of several Energizer Stations. We wound up at the big pancake breakfast held at The Hub Community Bike Shop — super awesome turnout, lots of family and cargo bikes, and an eco-friendly setup with all of us using real plates we took to a washing-up station.
    • Also very very notable trip for including my first-ever trip to the shrine, the center of all things bike style: Nuu-Muu World Headquarters. For those who don’t know the story Nuu-Muus inspired the pop-up bike style business I had for a while in Spokane. I loved those dresses so much I needed to evangelize/sell them to other people.

  • Whitman County: I graduated from WSU but never rode a bike while I lived there. I’ve rectified that a few times since then riding around downtown and up to campus. On my first trip there as executive director of Washington Bikes I got to hear Mia Birk speak, which was cool. More recently I was there for meetings and rode the Bill Chipman Trail to Moscow for a delicious dinner.
  • Yakima County: Another place with a nice trail, the Yakima Greenway. I’ve been there several times, including a great infrastructure tour in 2017 led by the WSDOT regional bicycle/pedestrian coordinator with lots of people from the local bike club and Yakima Bikes and Walks. Notable among other things for including a site where WSDOT installed green paint to indicate a bike lane across a highway intersection — something that only appears in one other place on the state system as of February 2018. 

Tally as of early February 2018: I’ve biked in 26 of 39 counties. Not bad for not having any systematic approach to this. It is also quite entirely possible that I have had coffee in each every one of the boldfaced counties plus several of the ones in which I have yet to ride.

*I had the pleasure of being in on the creation of Cycling Sojourner Washington when I was with Washington Bikes. Amazon Affiliate link here in case you can’t get it through your local bookstore — or you don’t have a local bookstore.

 

 

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